Evers Delivers State of Education Address

By John Forester | September 21, 2017

State Superintendent Tony Evers delivered his State of Education address today before an audience of school superintendents and invited guests at the State Capitol in Madison. He used “The Man in the Arena” passage from President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech as a backdrop to the call for leadership in these challenging times.

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SAA News Release On Budget, Low Revenue Veto

By John Forester | September 21, 2017

The SAA has issued a news release thanking Governor Walker and the legislature for their investments in K12 education.  We also expressed our disappointment at Governor Walker’s veto of the increase to the low revenue ceiling.

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Governor to Sign Budget, Veto Low Revenue Ceiling Upper

By John Forester | September 21, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker will sign the biennial budget today at Tullar Elementary School in Neenah.

He announced 99 vetoes ahead of today’s signing, including wiping out an Assembly GOP plan to boost low-spending school districts.

The provision for low-spending districts, now capped at $9,100 per student, would have boosted their revenue limit to $9,300 in 2017-18 and $9,400 in 2018-19. The limit on what they spend would then increase $100 per year through 2022-23, when it would be $9,800 per student.

Other items that Walker plans to use his veto pen on include a provision giving lawmakers more input on the board that makes decisions on state employee’s health care and the creation of a state prosecutor board.

See Wisconsin State Journal coverage here.

See Wisconsin Public Radio coverage here.

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Governor Releases Budget Vetoes

By John Forester | September 20, 2017

The Governor’s office has released the Governor’s state budget vetoes.  We have pasted the Public Instruction vetoes below:

PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

32. Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Adjustment

I am partially vetoing this section to limit adoption of such resolutions to before January 1, 2018 or after December 3018.  I object to the temporary suspension of this revenue limit adjustment because I believe school districts should be required to use referenda to bypass revenue limits.  Many of the recently adopted resolutions for energy efficiency measures allowed school districts to exceed revenue limits by a significant amount.  Taxpayers should have a direct voice when large property tax increases are under consideration.  This veto will maintain the ability for school districts to ask taxpayers if they wish to exceed revenue limits and eliminate an exemption that has been viewed as a loophole to revenue limits.

33. Low Revenue Adjustment

I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input.  In several school districts that would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already failed within the past two years.  An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher than the state average.  This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.

As a result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at $9,100.  School districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid.  These per pupil increases are equal among all school districts.  Additionally, school districts could pursue an increase in their revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law.  In fact, numerous districts have already done so by asking taxpayers through a referendum.  Increases to the low revenue adjustment can be discussed in future state budgets.

34. School District Referenda Scheduling

I am partially vetoing these provisions to eliminate the ability of school districts to conduct the special elections to consider referenda as described above, but maintain the effective date of January 1, 2018 for the limitations on referendum scheduling.   School referenda should be known and considered by the greatest number of voters possible, and limiting referenda to regularly scheduled election days will further this principle.  Maintaining the delayed effective date will allow currently scheduled referenda to take place.

35. Whole Grade Sharing Aid

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for whole grade sharing and related reporting requirements.  Whole grade sharing is intended to create savings, which should be a built-in incentive; however, school districts have not taken advantage of whole grade sharing since it became permissible under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55.  Therefore, I believe these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

36. Shared Services Aid

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for shared services.  Sharing services will create savings for school districts; therefore, providing state grants would nullify savings to taxpayers that would result from local actions.  Additionally, I believe these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

37. Summer School Grants

I am partially vetoing these provisions to create a grant to the Milwaukee Public Schools for summer school programs.  The program proposed in my Executive Budget was targeted to the district to augment the district’s summer school expansion efforts.  I object to the expansion of eligibility because it will dilute the funding, and therefore effectiveness, of the funds in the district.  I also believe that language specifying outcomes is unnecessary absent a competitive process, and would diminish the ability of a district to employ the funds in the most effective way.  As a result of this veto, the district will receive a grant of $1,400,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for summer school programs, and no other districts will be eligible to apply for these funds.

38. Virtual Charter School Funding Study

I am vetoing this provision to eliminate the report.  I object to the increased administrative burden on the department.

39. Mental Health Services Grants

I am partially vetoing these sections as they relate to requirements on applicants and the requirement for an advisory committee.  I believe schools should have maximum flexibility in designing and implementing these collaborations and therefore the statutes creating the program should be general, not prescriptive.  Additionally, the requirement for an advisory committee is burdensome.  As a result of this veto, the department will have broad flexibility to specify grant criteria in administrative rule without an official advisory committee; however, the department should seek input from interested parties informally.

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Senate Committee Passes Amended AB 169

By John Forester | September 19, 2017

“A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow people to carry concealed guns without getting training or state permits and in some cases bring them onto school grounds. 

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee signed off on the bill 3-2, with all Republicans for it and all Democrats against it. The wide-ranging legislation would also allow people to carry Tasers without training or permits and would allow felons to carry muzzle loaders.”

Check out the remainder of the news story penned by Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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SAA Veto Request Letter

By John Forester | September 19, 2017

The SAA hand delivered its veto request letter to the Governors office late yesterday.

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Gun Bill Up for Committee Vote Today

By John Forester | September 19, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to vote this morning on a GOP constitutional carry bill.

But the committee’s expected to introduce a substitute amendment today that would strike out language in the original bill to eliminate the state’s school gun free zone law. Instead, the sub would modify it, making it a state crime to possess a firearm in a school zone only if that person is violating the federal gun-free school zone law, according to a draft that was shared with WisPolitics.com.

The bill, authored by Sen. Dave Craig and Rep. Mary Felzkowski, got a public hearing in the Senate committee at the end of May, which sparked some of the changes outlined in the amendment.

The legislation is just one of a series of bills on the committee’s docket this morning. Another is Marsy’s Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that would increase the rights of crime victims. It passed an Assembly committee earlier this month.

See SAA Testimony on the bill here.

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It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over — Vos Move Could Delay Budget Signing

By John Forester | September 19, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants to talk with Scott Walker about the veto promises he issued to win Senate passage before sending the budget to the guv, a move that could delay the timetable for signing it.

Walker has said he wants to sign the budget before fall begins, which is Friday, and some have been expecting a mid-week ceremony. But that can’t happen without Vos signing the budget, which would allow the document to be sent to Walker.

Vos Chief of Staff Jenny Toftness said in an interview the speaker was hoping for a meeting with Walker soon to discuss the vetoes, which included some priorities for the Rochester Republican.

She noted Walker just returned this weekend from a trade mission to Japan and South Korea and spoke with some Senate Republicans about the promised vetoes ahead of Friday’s vote.

“The Assembly just wants the same opportunity,” Toftness said. “Hopefully we can get it done by the end of the week.”

The development is the latest twist in a tense budget process that pushed the document more than two months into the start of the new fiscal year. The bill also didn’t cobble together enough GOP votes in the Senate for passage until Sens. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield; Steve Nass, of Whitewater; and Duey Stroebel, of Saukville, received promises from Walker on a package of vetoes. With their support, the bill passed 19-14.

The promised vetoes would nix money for a tolling study, something Vos and Assembly Republicans have been pushing for to look for new revenue options in transportation. The guv also has promised to use his veto pen to: cut off school districts from a property tax exemption that allows them to exceed caps for energy efficiency projects; and $1 million the Joint Finance Committee put aside for renovations of the Capitol basement.

Vos supports the energy efficiency exemption and has been deeply involved in the Capitol’s centennial as co-chair of the commission planning the celebration.

Before the budget can be sent to Walker for his signature, Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, and Vos, R-Rochester, have to sign the bill.

Roth’s office said he has already signed it, and once Vos does as well, the bill can be sent to Walker, who would then have a week to add his signature.

Nass aide Mike Mikalsen said Vos’ priorities were not targeted in the discussions the three GOP lawmakers had with Walker on promised vetoes.

Their original list of demands included provisions they wanted to see added to the budget before they would sign on. Among them was boosting the income limit for the statewide school choice program to 300 percent of the federal poverty limit, something Vos supports.

Once it was clear the budget would not be amended to meet the three senators’ demands, Mikalsen said the focus turned to what could be eliminated.

Walker has promised to veto language that would pre-empt local governments from placing some regulations on quarries that produce aggregate for road or construction projects.

Mikalsen said that provision was starting to receive sharp criticism from business groups, which is why the three targeted it.

He added they expect Walker to keep his veto promises, regardless of any meeting with Vos.

“We understand there is this issue,” Mikalsen said. “But the speaker does not dictate for all members that they cannot work with the governor to receive vote assurances.”

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Fitzgerald: “We’ve Got the Votes”

By John Forester | September 15, 2017

From WisPolitics.com

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tells WisPolitics.com that he’s “got the votes” to pass the biennial budget.

The Senate is back in session after a three-hour recess, as GOP leaders negotiated with Senate hold-outs to try to get enough votes for the budget.

Fitzgerald said in a brief interview that he’s got enough votes to pass the budget but declined to share how many GOP senators will vote for it, saying he doesn’t “want to make any assumptions on a couple of the senators.” But he added it would pass without any Dem support.

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State Budget Faces Uncertainty in the Senate

By John Forester | September 15, 2017

From WisPolitics.com … 

The state Senate is scheduled to come in this morning to vote on the biennial budget, though it’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has enough GOP votes to pass it.

Fitzgerald said this week he doesn’t have 17 votes to pass the budget, with Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend, expected to vote no and three other conservative senators demanding several changes.

Those three senators — Chris Kapenga, Steve Nass or Duey Stroebel — told WisPolitics.com yesterday they’ll only vote for the budget if it meets some of their demands.

Those include: raising the income limit to 300 percent of the federal poverty limit for the statewide choice program, moving up the repeal of the prevailing wage on state projects, and prohibiting the UW System from spending some $4 million on diversity, sensitivity and cultural fluency training.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage

See Wisconsin Public Radio Coverage 

See Wisconsin Radio Network coverage in which Speaker Vos calls Republican holdout senators’ list of demands a “ransom list”.

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